Waterfall Clinic 'Farmacy'

Food in a refrigerator Tuesday free to visitors of the Waterfall Clinic in Coos Bay.

COOS BAY — Waterfall Clinic patients can now get prescriptions to visit the “farmacy” for free vegetables.

The Veggie Rx program started at the beginning of July and is now helping feed 350 patients and their families.

Janet Humbree reaches for a recipe card Tuesday in the waiting room of the Waterfall Clinic 'Farmacy' in Coos Bay.

“We’ve been working on social determinants of health care here,” said Lance Nelson, the clinic’s chief experience officer. “This is part of a bigger program to hit all aspects of health care like food insecurity, social isolation, living in a violent household, things like that.”

The Veggie Rx program was intended to spearhead those efforts toward outreach and addressing some of those social determinants last fall. The idea for the Veggie Rx program came out of a conversation between the clinic and South Coast Food Share, which was having difficulty moving donated produce before it spoiled.

“They brainstormed how we can help each other and our patients and came up with the idea to provide access to fresh produce on site where we could give it to our patients who can’t afford fresh produce,” Nelson said. “It’s already well known that if Americans ate better they would be healthier. That’s true of our population, so the idea was to overcome that barrier to healthier eating by providing it to our patients.”

Through the Waterfall Clinic’s partnership with South Coast Food Share, the “farmacy” refrigerator gets fresh produce three times a week.

“It’s one of those things that nobody likes to talk about,” said Nicole Morris, the clinic’s outreach manager. “When you can’t get food, you don’t like to discuss it. But when it’s in front of you, there’s no judgement.”

The only qualifications needed to access the Veggie Rx program is to be a Waterfall Clinic patient and be in need of produce.

In addition, the clinic’s school-based clinic on the Marshfield High School campus will offer this to students once school starts next month.

“Students can walk into the school side and get produce they need,” Morris said.

That clinic is located on 11th Street above the MHS football field, put there eight years ago with student access on one side and public access on another side.

“If kids want an apple or carrot sticks or take stuff home to their family, they can,” Nelson said.

Advanced Health has also partnered with the Waterfall Clinic on the program, providing reusable take home bags that patients can bring to refill with produce.

“This is kind of a pilot project,” Nelson said. “I’m sure there are a lot of clinics in the area that could expand this further, but that’s one thing we’re proud of here at Waterfall. We tend to lead on these things like integrated health. We’ve had patients inquire about becoming patients here for this program.”

Morris pointed out that the Veggie Rx program isn’t new, but the Waterfall’s take on it is.

“Usually when you see something like this, a clinic is giving vouchers to patients to use at grocery stores,” Morris said. “We are keeping it here. Our ‘farmacy’ is right next to the pharmacy with the ‘ph’ and patients can leave here with medication and fresh veggies.”

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Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.